Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Last Friday I was at the Loops + Splices symposium hosted at Victoria University Wellington, and co-organised by Victoria and some of my Massey colleagues. Overall it was a fun and entertaining day with some really strong talks.

The keynote speaker was Professor Ian Christie, who was over from Birkbeck College in London. Christie’s presentation was entitled ‘Denying depth: uncovering the hidden history of 3D in photography and film’ and provided a genealogical/media archaeological exploration of stereography, moving from a range of pre-film technologies through to contemporary 3D cinema such as Avatar. Christie’s starting point was the outright dismissal of 3D as a gimmick by film critics such as the late Roger Ebert and respected editor Walter Murch who argued that ‘It (3D) doesn’t work with our brains and it never will.’ Christie’s argument developed through the interest which pioneering film theorists such as Andre Bazin and Sergei Eisenstein both had in stereoscopy, and passed through a variety of technologies and techniques by which 3D cinema was a reality in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was interesting to learn that until the stabilisation of photographic techniques through the standardisation enacted by cheap consumer cameras such as the Eastman Kodak, that 3D images were as popular and common as their non-stereo counterparts. Christie argued that the adoption of 3D imaging and simulation apparatus by professions such as surgeons and pilots demonstrates the range of utility presented by stereo imaging techniques, and that it is wrong to dismiss the technology on the basis of  some of the poor narrative qualities of the 3D films which followed Avatar. It also feels worth noting that Christie was a model keynote speaker throughout the day, being engaged with all the panels, asking thoughtful and pertinent questions, and being kind and generous about the various presentations which followed his keynote.

The morning panel following the keynote was composed of Allan Cameron from the University of Auckland, and my Massey colleagues Kevin Glynn, Max Schleser along with myself. Allan’s paper, “Facing the Glitch: Abstraction, Abjection, and the Digital Face” examined the history of glitch as a form within both music and video, and specifically explored the role of the face within glitch videos. The paper outlined ways in which forms of long group of picture compression and the generation of intermediate frames which are interpreted from keyframes serves as a framework for work which uses compression artifacts, pixelation and glitch as an aesthetic strategy. I have to say, that on a personal level, any paper which shows clips of glitched up sequences from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is a winner.

Kevin’s paper “Technologies of Indigeneity: Māori Television and Convergence Culture” comes out of his Marsden-funded project working with Julie Cupples on ‘Geographies of Media Convergence: Spaces of Democracy, Connectivity and the Reconfiguration of Cultural Citizenship.’ The paper focused on NZ media representations of the Urewera raids of 2007, and a more recent case where Air NZ, who prominently feature Maori iconography in their branding, terminated an interview with a woman for having a ta moko (traditional body markings), which they claimed would unsettle their customers. The paper explored impacts associated with the introduction of Maori TV and social networking software such as Facebook and Twitter on the ability of Maori to represent themselves and partake in mediated debates surrounding cultural identity.

Max’s paper “A Decade of Mobile Moving Image Practice” was an overview of some of the changes that have occurred over last the ten years with regards to mobile phone filmmaking. Going from the early days of experimenting with low resolution 3GP files which were not designed to be ingested or edited, through to the contemporary situation whereby a range of mobile phone apps exist to provide varying levels of control for users working in High Definition, Max mapped out some of the ways that the portability and intimacy afforded by mobile phones allow for modes of filmmaking which depart from the intrusive nature of working with digital cinema cameras. It was also highly entertaining to see some decade-old pictures of Max looking very young.

My paper, “ArchEcologies of Ewaste” was a look at how media archaeology and media ecologies can be complementary methods in examining a range of issues pertaining to materiality and the deleterious impacts caused by the toxic digital detritus that we discard, focusing particularly on ewaste in New Zealand, where there currently isn’t a mandatory (or even free) nationwide ewaste collection scheme, unlike in the EU where the WEEE directive mandates that all ewaste must be recycled in high tech local facilities. The prezi for the talk is here if you’re interested.

After lunch there were a couple of panels, with some varied and interesting presentations, from which my two highlights were the papers from Michael Daubs and Allen Meek. Michael’s paper “What’s New is Past: Flash Animation and Cartoon History” conducted a re-evaluation of early rhetorics of the revolutionary newness and democratic and transformative potentials of Flash animation, exploring the way in which a range of cell animation techniques such as layering and keyframing were appropriated into Flash, alongside a detailed history of Flash’s adoption in Web-based animation. The paper concluded by mobilising this archaeological exhumation of past claims surrounding deterministic claims for democratising technologies to interrogate some of the hyperbole surrounding HTML5 and CSS3, the currently-still-being-finalised web standards which incorporate scalable vector graphics into the web itself, thus removing the need for a proprietary layer of Flash on top of web-native code.

Allen’s paper, “Testimony and the chronophotographic gesture” examined the historical relationships between gesture, imaging technology and biopolitics. The paper began by exploring ways that early film was utilised under Taylorism as a means by which to quantify bodily movements and gestures in order to recombine them in the most temporally efficient manner so as to enact a form of disciplinarity upon the workforce. This history of gesture on film as a tool for quantifying gesture was contrasted with material from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, where gesture was used to reawaken embodied but subconscious memories of the Holocaust, which are being recorded for the documentary as a means of bearing witness to those memories. The dialectic between the employment of film as an apparatus of disciplinarity and as a means of witnessing was theorised via Agamben and Foucauldian biopolitics, and made for a fascinating paper.

There were also interesting and enjoyable papers from Damion Sturm, who examined T20 cricket in Australia as an exemplar of the increasing mediatisation of sport, Kirsten Moana Thompson, who used A Single Man  as a case study to explore a range of phenomena surrounding digital technologies and colour in cinema, and Leon Gurevitch who examined some of the relationships between industrial design practices and computational 3D design and animation practices .

On the whole, it was a hugely enjoyable day, and it was great to meet a range of researchers doing various forms of work around media, archaeology, history and technology. A big thanks to the Loops + Splices organising committee, Kirsten Thompson, Miriam Ross, Kathleen Kuehn, Alex Bevan, Radha O’Meara, and Michelle Menzies, for putting everything together.

Read Full Post »

Last week I was in Auckland for a couple of days to go to the MINA (Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa) 2013 Symposium at the Auckland University of Technology. Having just recently arrived in New Zealand the symposium seemed like a great opportunity to meet some researchers and artists working in and around pervasive/locative media, and to see what kinds of mobile media research and praxis are going on in New Zealand.

The conference kicked off with a fascinating keynote from Larissa Hjorth from RMIT in Melbourne. Hjorth looked at practices surrounding current cultural usages of mobile imaging technologies from an ethnographic perspective, and charaterised this as second generation research in camera phone studies. Whereas the first wave focussed on mobile imaging through the perspectives of networked visuality, sharing/storing/saving, and vernacular creativity, she characterises second generation camera phone studies as focussing on the notions of emplacement through movement, the prominence of geo-temporal tagging and spatial connectivity, intimate co-presence and re-conceptualising casual play as ambient play.

My other highlights on the first day were a fantastic session on activism and mobile video practices which features papers from Lorenzo Dalvit and Ben Lenzner. Dalvit explored the use of user uploaded mobile phone videos to a tabloid online newspaper The Daily Sun, which provides a public forum for citizens to publish and attract widespread attention to instances of police brutality within South Africa. In particular Dalvit focussed on a case where police dragged a Mozambican taxi driver to his death through the streets, and mobile footage posted to the Daily Sun was used to contradict the official police account that the taxi driver was armed, and was thus pivotal in bringing the policeman in question to face trial for their actions. Dalvit also highlighted the utility of audiovisual media in cultural contexts where literacy cannot be assumed as universal, and the ways that the Daily Sun provided a forum of public discussion surrounding the commonplace acts of police brutality which are primarily aimed at impoverished black youths in SA.

This was followed by a look at some of Lenzner’s PhD research which compares the usage of mobile video streaming techniques by US activist such as Tim Poole and the Indian community-activist group India Unheard. Similarly to Dalvit’s South African case study, Cole’s footage of Occupy Wall Street was used in court to quash bogus charges fabricated by police against an Occupy protester, again highlighting the ways that citizen journalism and in particular video evidence can provide a powerful tool in providing counter-narratives to official accounts which are often pure fabrications. Whereas Cole was able to stream video live on to UStream, community video activists working for India Unheard have to go somewhere to compress and upload material due to the difference in bandwidth between New York and Mumbai. This forced pause means that they produce activist video which is closer to traditional forms of video activism, providing edited stories rather than just a live stream of events. Both these papers were fantastic examples of how the increasing access to media production tools provides ways for previously unheard voices to be heard, and within a legal context, to provide very strong evidence to contradict official statements from powerful institutions linked to the state.

Also on the Thursday were really interesting papers from Craig Hight and Trudy Lane. Hight’s paper focussed on the implications of emerging software digital video, and in particular various ways that numerous forms of consumer/prosumer software are automating increasing amounts of the editing process. The paper outlined a number of fairly new tools, such as Magisto, which claims to ‘automatically turns your everyday videos into beautifully edited movies, perfect for sharing. It’s free, quick, and easy as pie!’ Within the software you select which clips you wish to use, a song to act as the soundtrack and a title, and Magisto assembles your video for you. While Hight was quite critical of the extremely formulaic videos this process produces, it’s interesting to think about what this does in turns of algorithmic agency and the unique ability of software to make the types of decisions normatively only associated with human (what Adrian Mackenzie has described as secondary agency).

Lane by contrast is an artist whose recent project the A Walk Through Deep Time  was the subject of her paper. While the deep time here is not the same as Sigfried Zielinski’s work into mediation and deep time, it does present an exploration of a non-anthropocentric geological temporality, intially realised through a walk along a 457m fence to represent 4.57 billion years of evolution. The project uses an open-source locative platform called roundware which provides locative audio with the ability for users to upload content themselves whilst in situ, allowing the soundscape to become an evolving and dynamic entity. The ecological praxis at the heart of Lane’s work was something that really resonated with my interests, and it was great to see that there are really interesting locative art/ecology projects going on here.

The second day of the symposium opened with a keynote from Helen Keegan from the University of Salford. Keegan’s presentation centred on a unit she had run as an alternate reality game entitled Who is Rufi Franzen. The project was a way of getting students to engage in a curious and critical way with the course, rather than the traditional ways of learning we encounter within lectures and seminars. The project saw the students working together across numerous social media platforms to try and piece together the clues as to whom Rufi was, how he had been able to contact them, and what he wanted. The project climaxed with the students having been led to the triangle in Manchester, where they were astonished to see their works projected on the BBC controlled big screen there. It looked like a great project, and a fantastic experience.

My highlight of the second day was a paper by Mark McGuire from the University of Otago who presented on the topic of Twitter, Instagram and Micro-Narratives (Mark’s presentation slides are online via a link on his blog and well worth a look). Taking cues from Henry Jenkin’s recent work into spreadable media, which emphasises the ways that contemporary networked media foregrounds the flow of ideas in easy to share formats, McGuire went on to explore the ways that micro-narratives create a shred collaborative experience whereby the frequent sharing of ideas and experiences, content creators become entangled within a web of feedback or creative ecologies which productively drives the artistic work. Looking at Brian Eno’s notion of an ecology of talent and applying interdisciplinary notions of connectionist thinking and ecological thought and metaphors, McGuire made a convincing case as to why feedback rich networks provide a material infrastructure which cultivates communities who learn to act creatively together.

There was also a really interesting paper on the second day from Marsha Berry from RMIT, Melbourne, who built upon Hjorth’s notions of emplaced visuality to explore how creative practices and networked sociality are becoming increasingly entangled. Looking in detail at practices of creating retro-aesthticised images using numerous mobile tools including Instagram and retro camera filters, Berry explored these images as continuity with analogue imaging, as a form of paradox, as Derridean hauntology – as a nostalgia for a lost future, and finally as the impulse to create poetic imagery, highlighting that for teenagers today there is no nostalgia for 1970s imaging technologies and techniques which pre-date their birth.

Max Schleser and Daniel Wagner also presented interesting papers, looking at projects they had respectively been running which used mobile phone filmmaking. Schleser outlined the 24 Frames 24 Hours project for workshop videos, which featured a really nice UI designed by Tim Turnidge, and looked like a really nice tool for integrating video, metadata and maps. Schleser explored how mobile filmmaking is important to the emergence of new types of interactive documentary, touching on some of the conceptual material surrounding iDocs. Wagner presented the evolution of ELVSS (Entertainment Lab for the Very Small Screen), a collaborative project which has seen Wagner’s Unitec students working alongside teams from AUT, University of Salford, Bogota and Strasbourg to collectively craft video based mobile phone projects. The scale of the project is really quite inspiring in terms of thinking what it’s possible to create in terms of global networked interdisciplinary collaborations within higher education today.

Overall, I really enjoyed attending MINA 2013. The community seems friendly, relaxed and very welcoming, the standard of presentations, artworks and keynotes was really high and it’s really helped me in terms of feeling that there are academic networks within and around New Zealand who’re involved in really interesting work. Roll on MINA 2014.

Read Full Post »

I’ve just had an article published as part of the spring/summer edition of Necsus, the European Journal of Media Studies. Necsus is an open access journal, so you can find the full text HERE.  My text is a look at how notions of scale and entanglement can productively add to media ecologies as an emergent way of exploring media systems. If looks at case studies of Phone Story and Open Source Ecology, and examines how in both cases a multiscalar approach which looks across content, software and hardware can be productively applied.

The journal also features an interview with Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell, the authors of Greening the Media, a book released last year which is one of the first full-length pieces to look at issues pertaining to the ecological costs of media technologies (both old and new), and a series on interesting essays which look at the intersection of media/film studies and ecology from diverse perspectives. Outside of the Green material, there are essays by Sean Cubitt (who was my PhD external examiner a few months back) and Jonathan Beller which are well worth a read.

 

Read Full Post »

This week I start doing some work as a researcher for the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of the West of England, looking at a range of notions surrounding postdigitality.

The working hypothesis I’ve been given to function as a jumping off point is that ‘the digital’ in ‘digital cultures’ is on the verge of becoming a redundant term since all significant global cultures are all already digital.’ If this is the case how should the research centre strategically reconfigure its interests to maintain relevance within this postdigital moment.

My main experience with notions around postdigitality thus far comes from documenting the Postdigital Encounters Journal of Media Practice Symposium in 2011, which featured a range of interestingly contradictory takes on the postdigital:

 

 

I’m looking forwards to engaging with the DCRC staff around this issue, and spending some time thinking about the underlying value of a discourse which is currently fragmented and largely dominated by some fairly insubstantial rhetoric on blogs and newspaper articles, but which appears to touch on some far more interesting material around the rematerialisation of technologies, the Internet of things, pervasive media, and smart cities and connected communities.

Read Full Post »

I’ve basically been failing to blog recently because the combination of PhD work, teaching and making stuff has left me with pretty much no spare time. Hopefully in the new year things will be a little calmer and I’ll have more time to spend here…

The Watershed’s D-shed website has got videos of the McLuhan’s Message seminars online, which includes the talk I gave on Walled Gardens and Digital Enclosure back in October.

It was an enjoyable (and slightly intimidating) panel to be on, but i think it went okay. The day as a whole was really interesting, with some excellent speakers and discussion of various areas surrounding contemporary media technologies.

 

Read Full Post »

There’s a lot of really interesting discussion going on at the moment about the role that social media and online/offline networks have played and are continuing to play in the revolutions which have swept across Tunisia and Egypt and are emerging in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Iran.

Manuel Castells, the Catalan sociologist most famous for his writings on the Network Society, the Information Age and Communication Power is interviewed on the subject by Jordi Rovira for the Open University of Catalonia

The spontaneous social movements in Tunisia and Egypt have caught political analysts on the hop. As a sociologist and communication expert, were you surprised by the ability of the network society in these two countries to mobilise itself?

No, not really. In my book Communication Power, I devote a large part to explaining, on an empirical basis, how changes to communication technologies create new possibilities for the self-organisation and self-mobilisation of society, by-passing the barriers of censorship and repression imposed by the state. The issue clearly isn’t dependent on technology. Internet is a necessary but not sufficient condition. The roots of rebellion lie in exploitation, oppression and humiliation. However, the possibility of rebelling without being quashed immediately depends on the density and speed of mobilisation and that depends on the ability created by the technologies which I have classified as mass self-communication.

Could we consider these popular uprisings as a new turning point in the history and evolution of the internet or should we analyse them as a logical, albeit extremely important, consequence of the implementation of the Net in the world?

These popular insurrections in the Arab world constitute a turning point in the social and political history of humanity. And perhaps the most important of the internet-led and facilitated changes in all aspects of life, society, the economy and culture. And this is just the start. The movement is picking up speed, despite Internet being an old technology, and deployed for the first time in 1969.

Young Egyptians have played a key role in the popular uprisings, thanks to the use of new technology. However, according to the calculations of Issandr El Amrani, an independent political analyst in Cairo, only a quarter of Egyptians have internet access. Do you feel that this situation may – in his words, create a divide in these countries between those with access and those without access – one that is even greater than that in developed countries?

This figure is already out-of-date. Around 40% of Egyptians over 16 have internet access, if we consider not just private homes but also cybercafés and places of study, according to a recent 2010 study by the information company Ovum. And this figure rises to around 70% among young urban dwellers. Also, according to recent figures, 80% of the urban adult population has internet access via their mobile. And, in any case, in a country of some 80 million, even a quarter, which is double among young city dwellers, according to the oldest sources, this means millions of people on the streets. Not all of Egypt has demonstrated, but enough have to create a sense of unity and bring down the dictator. The story of the digital divide regarding access is old, untrue today and boring because it’s based on an ideological predisposition, among intellectuals, of minimising the importance of the internet. There are 2,000 million internet users on the planet and 4,800 million mobile subscribers. Poor people also have mobiles and, although fewer, they have forms of internet access. The real difference lies in broadband and connection quality, and not in access which is spreading faster than any other technology in history.

It would be naive to think that, given the events of recent weeks, those unlawfully holding the reins of power will just stand by with their arms crossed. Nicholas Thompson, social media expert, wrote in The New Yorker that “in Iran, the government was clearly successful to a certain point in using the internet to slow the passage of the green revolution. In Tunisia, the government hacked into the password of almost all the country’s Facebook users. If Ben Ali had not fallen so quickly, that information would have been very useful”. To what extent does power have the necessary tools to quash uprisings started on the Net?

It doesn’t. In Egypt, they even tried to disconnect the whole net but they couldn’t manage it. There were thousands of ways, including telephone land line connections to numbers abroad which automatically converted the messages into twitters and fax messages in Egypt. And the financial cost and functional effort involved in disconnecting the internet is so much that the connection had to be restored extremely quickly. A power cut on the net is like an electricity power cut today. Ben Ali didn’t go that quickly, there was a month of demonstrations and massacres. And in Iran, the internet couldn’t be shut down, with information about the demonstrations and videos of them on You Tube. The difference is that over there, politically speaking, the regime had the power to brutally repress things without causing divisions in the army. However, the seeds of rebellion are there and young Iranians (70% of the population) are now massively against the regime. It’s a question of time.

In Egypt, popular mobilisation via the digital media has created cyber heroes such as Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive. Leaders of uprisings historically led political and social movements from the grass roots, which would then play a key role in the political future, such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit in France or Lech Walesa in Poland, just to give a couple of examples. However, we now have people with important technological knowledge, but often little political baggage. What role do you think these new leaders will play in the future of these countries?

The important thing to remember about wiki-revolutions (self-generating and self-organising ones), is that leadership doesn’t count, they are just symbols. However, these symbols don’t have any power, nobody obeys them and neither would they try. Perhaps later on, when the revolution has become institutionalised, some of these people may be co-opted to be a symbol for change, although I very much doubt that Ghonim wants to be a politician. Cohn-Bendit was just the same, a symbol, not a leader. He was a student and friend of mine in ’68 and was a true anarchist, rejecting leaders’ decisions and using his charisma (the first to be repressed) to help spontaneous mobilisation. Walesa was different, a union Vaticanist, which is why he became a politician so quickly. Cohn-Bendit took a lot longer and even so is still a green at heart who although now elderly, maintains values of respect towards the origins of social movements.

For some years now, Islamic fundamentalist movements have used new technology to promote their causes. The Muslim Brotherhood, which launched its own Wikipedia (Ikhwan Wiki) last year, reasserted that Islamists of all kinds “have exploited the internet to the full, despite the efforts of their adversaries.” This organisation, which could become the main beneficiary of a future election and which links together a great number of people committed to the total application of Islamic law, arouses suspicion among many trained young people who have led this uprising via new technology. How does this paradox make you feel?

Anyone who doesn’t use the internet now for their projects is backwards, with the exception of respectable eco-fundamentalists who write by the light of a candle (generally on a solar-powered computer). Consequently, both Islamists and even terrorists, also use it. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll win elections. To start with, they have been on the margins of recent social movements. And their election predictions in free elections do not get over 20% in any survey. Their organisation and tradition may lend them certain weight, but they do not represent the vast majority of an essentially young movement favouring freedom. They have been used by the regime to shock the world and the United States. It reminds me a little of when Franco used the fear of communism when everyone thought that the communists would secure a high return and then the PCE didn’t get over 10%, although in Catalonia the PSUC enjoyed significantly more support for a short time. Be that as it may, if the military does not keep its promises, if there are no free elections, if the demands of the fundamental working-class struggles unfolding in Egypt are not met, if there is violence against the population, then in that radicalised situation there may be Islamic armed resistance, but not by the middle-class Muslim Brotherhood.

The international media ? which the Egyptian regime tried to censor and even physically attacked ? together with Egyptian citizens who used the digital media, have enabled the shackles of information censorship to be shaken off. Months ago, Wikileaks achieved maximum return on its leaks in uniting the leading presses which published the vast amount of information that it held on its website. Is this alliance between conventional media and new technology the path we should be following in the future if we wish to successfully fight these huge challenges?

Large media corporations have no choice. They either ally with the internet and people’s journalism or they will become marginalised and financially unsustainable. However, that alliance plays a decisive role for social change. Without Al Jazeera there would have been no revolution in Tunisia.

In your article in La Vanguardia entitled Comunicación y revolución from 5 February, you ended by reminding readers that China had prohibited the word Egypt on the internet. Do you think the conditions are right for a popular movement similar to the one sweeping the Arab world to happen in the Asian giant?

No, because 72% of the Chinese support their government, because the urban middle class and mainly young people are extremely busy getting rich and the problems of the peasants and working class, China’s real social problems, are not on their radar. The government is taking excessive precautions, because censoring by system antagonises a lot of people who are not really against it. Democracy in China is not a problem for most people right now, unlike Tunisia and Egypt.

Events unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt are yet another example of the inclusion into our daily lives of new forms of communication, such as SMS, blogs, podcasts, RSS, wikis, Twitter and Facebook, which have led to what you term “mass self-communication”, the upshot of developing the web. Can this new type of globalised and atomised communication, fed by the contributions of millions of users, change our way of understanding interpersonal communication or is it just another powerful tool available to us?

It has already changed it. Nobody who is on social networks everyday (and this is true for some 700 million of the 1,200 million social network users) is still the same person. It’s an online/offline interaction, not an esoteric virtual world. How it has changed, how this new type of communication changes it each day is a question to be answered through academic research, not by sitting around gossiping. And that’s where we are now and that’s why we have conducted the Project Internet Catalonia at the UOC.

In December, the German Ministry of the Interior announced the creation of a cybernetic war defence centre to repel spying attacks, while in Tallin (Estonia), in an ultra secret NATO laboratory, leading IT specialists are working to prevent the evolution of conflicts in a world increasingly dependent on the internet. Bearing this in mind and having seen what is happening in the Arab world at the moment, could it be said that cyber attacks will be the war of the future?

They are in fact the war of the present. The United States considers cyber war a priority and has allocated it a budget ten times larger than that of all other countries put together. And in Spain, the armed forces are preparing themselves quickly for the same thing. The internet is the space of power and happiness, of peace and war. It’s the social space of our world, a hybrid space built on the interface between direct experience and experience mediated by communication and, above all, by internet communication.

Read Full Post »

Annie Leonard, the creator of the story of stuff has a new short animation out called the story of electronics. It’s well worth watching for a brief overview of some of the ethical imperatives surrounding the material impacts of the electronic equipment whose materiality is often erased by the discourse of virtuality.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers